Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites, which was marked by it's unpredictability, has the most unlikely of winners: John Cochran. Yes the nerdy Harvard law student who was a Survivor superfan was not only victorious, but he won in a unanimous vote against Dawn Meehan and a zombie that told everyone its name is Sherri Biethman.
Though that seems very unlikely based on how Cochran played on his first season, Survivor: South Pacific, and the opening episodes of this game, where he was remarkable more for overcoming a crippling sunburn than he was for his bombastic game play, but as soon as the show started it seemed fairly clear that he was going to win. When the episode began, Eric had to be evacuated from the game for the reason that seems the mostly likely but has never stricken a player before: starvation. He was dizzy and about as crazy as Dawn on a crying jag in a bag full of wet cats. This seemed to take all the guess work out of the rest of the proceedings. The only person who seemed like he could possibly beat Cochran was now removed through no fault of his own.
What was probably going to be an immunity challenge was then turned into a reward challenge to give whoever won an advantage in the final challenge (however last season Malcolm won a reward challenge that gave him an advantage in the final too, so maybe there was just a challenge they scrapped and this was the intent all along). This type of challenge has become more popular with Jeff Probst than that one shirt with the double pockets that he has in every color and seems to be the only garment he wears on camera. It's a challenge where everyone has to build a house of cards to a certain height and the first one to watch all of House of Cards in one sitting wins. Wait, that's some sort of Netflix challenge. After more back and forth than the world's first Pong tournament, Cochran ended up winning.
That means at the final challenge – where everyone had to run up an obstacle course, collect bags of puzzle pieces, and then build a puzzle – Cochran didn't have to untie his puzzle pieces from a series of knots like everyone else. Though the advantage didn't help him out too much, he ends up winning the challenge and taking the necklace.
The big conundrum then became whether he should take Dawn (his ally not only in this season but their last one as well) along with him to the finals or if he should take Eddie, who is kind of stupid and didn't do much in terms of game play or winning challenges. Zombie Sherri was going to the finals because, well, she's a zombie and while she might have Outlasted, Outwitted, and Outplayed everyone on the jury, she didn't Outlive any of them. What really irks me about the final three setup is that the holder of immunity doesn't even get to make the decision of who faces the jury. When there is a final two, the fate of the finals isn't necessarily decided by the person who won immunity and I think that is not only unfair, but it makes for boring TV as well, which is the ultimate crime of any reality show.
But I think that keeping Dawn was a very clever strategy for Cochran. He said when casting his vote that he was doing it based on what he thought the jury wanted. They didn't want someone who played mean and cutthroat, which is what he would have been if he axed Dawn so late in the game. Instead she gets to be the one to take the heat for blindsiding Brenda and Andrea and he gets to look like the nice guy who took his friend along to the end even if it might have cost him a vote or two. It made him seem that much warmer than Dawn and like he was unafraid to face deserving players in the end.
Cochran was clearly the best player there. Not only did he own the strategic game, he also did a great job in the challenges, something he didn't really play up to the jury. In fact, everyone's presentations seemed to be short on specifics. Cochran says that he was a master strategist, but never told us why. Zombie Sheri kept saying she played a strong game, but never gave one example. She just groaned and shuffled and mumbled something about brains.
The final tribal council was the mix of stunts and speeches that we've come to expect, and which are always a letdown after Sue Hawk's genius oratory in the first ever Survivor finale. There were two really intense moments, however. The first was when Eric confronted Sherri and told her she did nothing in the game, which is sort of like the pot calling the kettle a zombie. Then Sherri told Eric he was wrong and she didn't need his vote and to sit down. I don't want to pile on Sherri because the jury already did, but that was really her only good action the entire season. The second moment to remember was when Brenda confronted Dawn and made her take out her teeth. Like so much else this season, it just seemed a bit mean. I totally know where Brenda was coming from, she wanted Dawn to do something to prove how painful it was to vote her own friend out by debasing herself. But still, man, it was hard to watch.
In the end it was Cochran's articulate levelheadedness played so much better than Dawn's teary-faced paranoia. After his winning votes were read, we had to endure the reunion show, where Jeff Probst completely ignored Sherri and everyone who didn't make the jury so that he could talk to a bunch of his favorite men, macho bullies like Phillip, Boston Rob, and Rudy (who managed to use the word "queer" twice in 20 seconds). I'm shocked that the entire Hantz family didn't get up there and sing some sort of choir number about treating people like crap and beating up your enemies. All this did was to show why Jeff Probst's talk show got cancelled so damn fast.
Then at the end of the reunion, we got to find out what is up with the next season of Survivor (which, I'm guess, Reynold, like all the other chauvenistic a**holes that Jeff Probst loves, is going to be on). It is called Survivor: Blood Vs. Water and it's totally going to pit family members against each other, right? I will say that it was totally gratifying to watch this season and have a bunch of scrappy misfits take out the cool kids and make it so far and to see Cochran, the ultimate underdog, take the top prize after growing so much as a person. That has always been the enchanting thing about Survivor from the beginning – that we all think that, given the chance, we could go out there and win a million smackerinos. Seeing Cochran, a guy who seems more likely to win a Magic: The Gathering tournament than a survivalist nightmare, walk away victorious only makes us think, even more, that we can win.
What isn't fun to watch is the cruelty that has seeped into recent seasons of the show. We saw it this year with the casting of Brandon Hantz (who was banned from the finale, even after supposedly being cleared to play the game) and with Brenda and Dawn robbed of their loved ones and made to watch everyone else enjoy theirs right off their beach. That cruelty is built into a season where family members are pitted against each other and it might be, sadly, the first season of 26 that I don't actually watch.
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Nice guy Jerry (Matthew Lillard) is the same numbingly trite character we've seen in hundreds of other movies. He faces 30 with uncertainty. He doesn't know if he should propose to his beautiful girlfriend Denise (Bonnie Somerville). He just can't commit darn it! Oh life is so confusing! Meeting up with his best buds Tom "the rebel" (Dax Shepard) and Dan "the runt" (Seth Green) at the funeral of their dead friend Billy they reunite in the-what else?--tree house of their youth. There they discover a map of Billy's longtime obsession: The disappearance of hijacker D.B. Cooper with $200 000 cash. (Never mind that the real Cooper's flight took off in 1971 well before any of these characters would be born.) So these three friends set out on an expedition from the heart and learn a few valuable life lessons along the way. They embark on a canoe trip in the Pacific Northwest in search of Cooper's lost treasure with a very large bear and two even larger hillbillies in hot pursuit. Which is of course just a big excuse for some crazy hijinks in the woods the obligatory stoner sequence gorgeous but unshaven tree-huggers living atop a redwood a crazed mountain man the usual.
Lillard has an off-kilter charm that works in his supporting roles but not so much as the lead. One imagines the producers offering the role first to Adam Sandler and then to Vince Vaughn or Luke Wilson before finally settling on Lillard after they all refuse. His overbearing earnestness in the role recalls his work in SLC Punk straining for normalcy when something completely off-the-wall would work so much better. Shepard (from MTV's Punk'd) fares better he is amusingly annoying but at least he takes a side. Green is usually funnier than this but he doesn't usually have to lug an inhaler around with him as a prop or constantly stoop for laughs as the token scaredy cat. The three of them do have an easygoing chemistry that makes them good company. Burt Reynolds turns up with a foot-long beard as the mountain man who might know something about the treasure. It is certainly the most vanity free performance of Reynolds' career and while it doesn't amount to much it's a step in the right direction for a guy who could still be a great character actor if he could finally get over the fact that he is no longer Stroker Ace.
Steven Brill is best known as the director of the first Adam Sandler movie that didn't reach nine figures at the box office Little Nicky and he hasn't exactly advanced the art of screen comedy here. Nevertheless the pacing is brisk the timing is crisp and the repartee (credited to five writers) is snappy. Even the action comedy sequences mostly running away from the bear and the hillbillies are convincingly done. But make no mistake this is clearly the work of a man hell-bent on paying homage to The Goonies and for that miniscule target audience that not only saw The Goonies in the theater it can also differentiate the Coreys. Of course '80s music has been back in vogue for several years so it's inevitable that the '80s comedy embodied in this movie The Girl Next Door
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and others would return. But somebody had better make a good one soon or it will disappear faster than you can say Kajagoogoo.